July 12, 2006, VANCOUVER – News reports that two Calgary Stampede horses were killed after a collision occurred during the Rangeland Derby on July 7th, 2006, have drawn strong criticism from The Humane Society of Canada who says the deaths could have been prevented. “One horse suffered a heart attack, causing a second horse to break its leg in the ensuing collision. These kinds of events which involve a race against time for money, are an accident looking for a place to happen,” says Al Hickey, the animal charity’s Western Regional Director.


His remarks were echoed by HSC Executive Director Michael O'Sullivan who has worked with horses all of his life: “The best way to end this kind of cruelty is to prevent it from ever taking place. Our fascination with the ‘Old West’ is forcing these gentle noble animals to pay a heavy price.”

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is asking Canadians and companies not to support the cruel animal spectacles that form a part of the Calgary Stampede which runs from July 7-16. “For the most part, humans and animals work together, but in rodeo events they meet in open conflict.”

Last year, The Calgary Stampede’s Trail ride resulted in the deaths of nine horses. The horses were spooked and fell 10 metres from a bridge into the fast moving Bow River southeast of Calgary, a tenth horse went missing and was presumed dead. Ranch hands had reportedly been guiding about 200 rodeo horses on a six day, 206 km journey from the Stampede ranch near Hanna, Alberta to the exhibition site near downtown Calgary. The event, Trail Ride 2005, was organized to commemorate the province’s centennial. In an unrelated event, an eleventh horse died suddenly during the opening weekend.

A review committee report on this tragedy has recommended against any future trail rides in the same manner.

O'Sullivan, who has inspected rodeos in Canada and other countries holds a Bachelor of Science of Agriculture, and has worked extensively with horses, says that today’s rodeo events have nothing to do with today’s livestock handling practices. “Rodeo spectacles are nothing but entertainment for bored ‘city slickers’. Horses, calves, steers and bulls suffer during countless hours of practice sessions where riders and ropers train to race against the clock for prize money. People need to find new ways to entertain themselves that doesn’t involve this kind of trauma for animals,” he says.

In 2004, the Calgary Stampede increased the level of prize money to $1 million dollars, with winners taking home $50,000 and 2nd place finishers taking $25,000; making this event one of the most lucrative events on the rodeo circuit.

And anyone who believes that putting livestock into rodeo events saves them from that final trip to the slaughterhouse is simply fooling themselves. There are no ‘retirement homes’ for rodeo animals, says O’Sullivan.

The Humane Society of Canada believes that their five point action plan called “Ending Rodeo Violence” can help reduce and eventually bring an end to rodeo spectacles:

  1. Develop creative engaging campaigns to encourage people to stop paying the price of an admission ticket;
  2. Asking people to stop spending their hard earned money to buy goods and services from ad agencies and their companies which promote rodeos;
  3. The CRTC needs to legally enforce and make into law the current Canadian Broadcast Standards Council’s voluntary guidelines for broadcasters which prohibit scenes showing cruelty to animals; and until this takes place require all broadcasters to issue a warning that rodeo events contain ‘scenes of violence and that viewer discretion is advised’;
  4. Work with any municipalities that want to pass local bylaws to prohibit rodeo events;
  5. Ask insurance companies and their brokers not to provide insurance coverage for rodeo events.

“We need to do everything in our power to reduce violence, and in our opinion, rodeo spectacles are cruelty for the sake of entertainment,” says O’Sullivan. “This painful chapter in human history needs to be brought to a close.”

Additional Background

  • The Calgary Stampede was created and organized in 1912 by American, Guy Weadick after his dream of what the Wild West should be. Mr Weadick managed and maintained a connection with the Calgary Stampede for a number of years
  • Last year’s Calgary Stampede caused the death of ten horses during the Trail Ride, and an eleventh horse died during a race on the opening weekend.
  • A horse was killed at the 2004 Calgary Stampede following an injury that resulted in a broken leg
  • Before that an 18-month-old steer was killed when his neck was broken at the Cloverdale Rodeo
  • In 2002, six horses had to be euthanized after they were involved in a Chuckwagon crash at the Calgary Stampede
  • In 1999, one horse was killed following a Chuckwagon crash at the Calgary Stampede
  • In 1995, three horses were killed in various rodeo events at the Calgary Stampede
  • In 1986, six horses were killed a Chuckwagon crash, and before then end of that years’ Stampede, another six horses were euthanized
  • Rodeo riders who chose to take part in these events are also at risk and include a man who was killed in the Medicine Hat Stampede in 2000; three people, including Bill McEwen, were killed in the 1999 Calgary Stampede; Eugene Jackson died of head injuries during a Chuckwagon event at the 1996 Calgary Stampede, previously two deaths occurred at the 1995 Calgary Stampede as well as one each at the 1971 & 1960 Calgary Stampede
  • More recently a director of the Cloverdale Rodeo was seriously hurt when he was hit by a bull
  • A calf moving at speeds of up to 40 km/hr is suddenly jerked to a sudden stop when a rope is thrown around the animal’s neck
  • Bare back and bronc riding involve terrified animals trying to escape a painful bucking strap around their groin area as they tried to throw a rider from their back

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=56132698753

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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